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Quarantine or isolate, what's the difference?

In stories about COVID-19, I often see the words “isolate” and “quarantine.” Are these words interchangeable, or do they mean different things?

— Will M., via email

In everyday speech, these words are often used synonymously, Will, but when it comes to COVID-19, they actually do refer to different things.

According to the Jackson County Public Health website, “If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should stay home even if you don’t feel sick. This is called quarantine.”

The website then goes on to say, “If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and have symptoms, or if you test positive (even if you don’t feel sick), stay home and keep away from other people, even those in your own home. This is called isolation.”

It seems like some hairs are being split here, but the bottom line is this: If you have been around somebody who got COVID, stay home. If you test positive or feel sick, stay home and keep away from everybody, even those in your own home.

And in the meantime, wear a mask and wash your hands often. For more information, see https://jacksoncounty.org/COVID-19.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.